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Heineken’s latest campaign, Worlds Apart, has received mixed reactions: some are hailing it as the way to do advertising, while others have declared that it’s worse than Pepsi’s recent advertising faux pas.

The ad sees politically polar opposites partake in a team-building bonding activity of building a flat-pack bar, blissfully unaware (at this stage) that the other person has such different values. After building the bar, they watch a short video detailing their newfound comrade’s opinions and are invited to sit down over a beer (Heineken obviously!) and listen to their supposed nemesis’ musings. A feminist meets a member of the ‘new right’; an environmental activist is paired with someone denouncing climate change as “total piffle”; and a transgender woman converses with someone who’s ‘not sympathetic’ to transgender views, shall we say.

For me, (who, by the way, is a self-proclaimed cynic) personally Heineken has hit the nail on the head. Yes, they are capitalising on the trend for ‘meaningful’ marketing and striking a chord amongst a politically un-restful public. But, people sit up and listen to big brands, whether we like it or not, so isn’t it better that they use their voice for something good?

It’s likely that the advert is a reaction to the widespread conflicting views on Brexit, Trump and the imminent French election, which have ultimately divided nations. However, having recently been in some heated debates with friends and family about the impending snap election, something that has occurred to me is that we don’t seem to have really learnt from the Brexit and Trump debacles. I’m still hearing the same arguments: “You must be stupid if you vote for so and so”; “you’re brainwashed by the media if you think such and such”; “how could you possibly vote for that liberal / mugwump / tory / nhs-killer / trident-hater / tree-hugger (delete as appropriate)?” When has insulting someone’s opinion or intellect ever changed their mind?

Heineken may very well be taking advantage of the public’s feelings with #OpenYourWorld but, quite honestly, I don’t really care that their main objective is to sell more beer. I welcome anything that might make people sit up and listen to someone else’s opinion for a change, rather than telling them why they are wrong. It invites us all to raise a beer (or in my case, at seven-months pregnant a lime and soda!) instead of raising your voices and talk it out. If Heineken’s ad makes just one person think twice about why we’ve found ourselves in a nation divided by opinion and really consider an alternative way of thinking then that can only be a good thing.

And, for the cynics, even if you insist on scolding Heineken for cashing in on the ‘meaningful marketing’ trend, let’s just take a minute to appreciate why the campaign resonates with people and just how clever it is…

  • It positions everyone as equal. No-one is the bad guy. Everyone’s opinions are equal and valid (no matter how un-PC) – Heineken is for everyone!
  • It doesn’t try to imply that the brand has anything to do with building bridges – Heineken is simply a facilitator; bringing people together to hash it out themselves and draw their own conclusions!
  • It taps into something extremely topical – divided opinion – that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Heineken gets you; it’s like you; it knows what pushes your buttons!

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